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How to Meet Someone We Love in Their Suffering, and Why We Often Don’t

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Abuse victims have a deep fear that if we break our silence, our words will fall on deaf or disinterested ears. Here's why that fear is legitimate and one way to change that.


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written by

Jennifer Greenberg

Below excerpt taken from Not Forsaken by Jennifer Greenberg’s


It would be an interesting exercise to count how many times Jesus was misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored. It might be easier to count the times He was understood.

Many times, Jesus said He was the Son of God. Several times, He predicted He’d die for our sins and rise from the dead. Rarely was He understood, and frequently He was thought crazy or demon-possessed.

Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus wept and prayed, anticipating His torture and death, His disciples unconcernedly fell asleep. Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26: 38).

Jennifer Greenberg

Now, if my friend told me, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” I’d be concerned. I hope I’d drop everything to comfort them, weep and pray beside them, even if I didn’t understand what was wrong.

Jesus’ friends did not do that.

As a kid I sometimes tried to tell people about my home life. Every time, I was misunderstood. I suspect they thought I was referring to normal parental discipline or maybe a weird one-off incident. I told them I was being beaten and worse in my own home, but they didn’t take the time to listen or understand. Just so, the disciples had a wholly inappropriate reaction to Jesus’ suffering. Instead of praying with Him, wiping the sweat off His brow, and crying over His distress, they lay down in the grass and fell asleep (v 40, 43-44). And this didn’t just happen once. Three times Jesus tells His disciples that His heart is breaking, but instead of caring, they take a nap.

What complacency. What disregard! How could they be so blind and apathetic? Yet, as I recall the many people I tried to tell about my suffering, who I tried to alert to what my father was doing to me, the disciples’ reaction is all too easy to believe. Perhaps we’re wired to do what’s easiest rather than what’s best. Perhaps human instinct is to block out what’s uncomfortable or inexplicable. Perhaps we all by nature prefer to neglect people if to deal with their pain would upset the way we’ve been seeing life or risk the relationships or reputations we enjoy.

It’s hard for most people to imagine that stories of abuse, like those you’d see on the news, could really be happening next door or in their church. Maybe it’s simply too horrible to think possible. Maybe they don’t want to know because then they’d have to care. Maybe intervening would be too messy or inconvenient. Whether their disregard is committed through ignorance and naivety, or irresponsibility and denial, the effect on the victim is a sense of isolation, neglect and abandonment.

Abuse victims have a deep fear that if we break our silence, our words will fall on deaf or disinterested ears. If, like Christ, we tell someone, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, and I want to tell you why,” but we’re met with complacent responses like, “You should pray about it,” or “Are you certain that’s what happened?” or “I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that,” or “What did you do to make him lust that way?” all our fears are confirmed. And it breaks our hearts.

Sometimes when Jesus was not understood, He intended it that way. He chose to speak in parable stories so His meaning would be veiled. But often, Jesus spoke plainly, but was met by self-absorption, complacency or worse. Just so, we may feel we’re speaking a different language than everyone around us, or that nobody cares enough to listen or help. The resultant feeling of isolation is one Jesus knows very well.


About the Author—Jennifer Greenberg is a Christian, Texan and stay-at-home mom of three who listens to heavy metal and likes black licorice. Also, a singer, Jennifer’s music has been covered my numerous outlets such as Christianity Today, Houston Chronicle and featured on NPR, FOX 26 and Great Day Houston. 

Jennifer Greenberg
Author of “Not Forsake,” Jennifer Greenberg

Even through the darkest seasons of her life, God has been faithful and kept her hope alive. Her tenacious will to thrive, empathic ability to discern emotion in others and skill at articulating complex feelings contribute to her hallmark voice as an author. Her new book, Not Forsaken, is a natural continuation of Jennifer’s prolific creativity and advocacy. Jennifer is passionate about praying with and supporting others who have faced similar situations. Connect with her online at JenniferGreenberg.net.

‘The Good Book Company gives permission to LightWorkers to use this excerpt from Not Forsaken.’